This is my second post about returning to university, you can read the first one here. The second day of university involved identifying our hopes, needs and concerns for the course. As some of you know, one of my main reasons for returning to uni is this place. I have plans and ideas and I want to make sure they are realised. Being an anxious person, I struggle with networking and public speaking. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on them.
We had a couple of challenges during the day. I won’t reveal them here in case future students of the Innovation Academy stumble across this blog – I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise! I will say that one of them really demonstrated what a unique perspective different people can bring.
You might wonder what in the world that has to do with mental health. We are all individuals. We come from different backgrounds and have been shaped and influenced by different experiences. Those experiences shape how we perceive things – and that is directly related to our mental health. That’s why we’re here as a peer support community. No, we aren’t professionals and cannot and should not be used in place of professional services. But sometimes you need the different perspective that someone else can bring to the table.
I also think it reminds us that what works for each of us is different. We need to treat the individual, not the illness. I wrote an earlier post on pill shaming which covers this further.
The second challenge emphasised the value in prototyping, or more simply put – trial and error. If we aren’t successful at something on the first go, it’s easy to see it as a failure and give up. However, what we should be doing is learning from what went wrong, making adjustments, and trying again. This can apply in so many areas of life, from starting a business to trying medication. Zoe covered it really well in her post about medication.
Ken Robinson Talk
My favourite part of the day was watching this Ken Robinson TED Talk.
This was so relatable for me. I went to study Electronic Engineering because I was creative. As a child my teachers thought I’d be an inventor someday. What I found was the older I got, the more I was educated, the less creative I became. I loved English and creative writing in school, and I never wanted to study it to a higher level because I knew that would ruin my enjoyment of it.
Creativity was always something I used to deal with my mental health. I would write poetry and draw and sing. When you go to school, when you have a grade assigned to these things, you are told that there is a right way and a wrong way to do them. It stops being about the creativity. It stops being about enjoyment and starts being about right and wrong, and none of us want to be wrong. We don’t want to fail. As a result, we stop trying at all.
I used to attend dance classes when I was quite young. Now, dance has never been my strong suit, it was never going to be my future career. But it was a reputable school, and we were part of some big shows. In the classes, the teachers used to yell at people who were mixing up their left and right. The class was so big that I could never even tell if it was me they were yelling at. One day, we were putting on a show for the parents of all the kids who attended the class. I broke down sobbing in the middle of the show, had to be taken out and refused to ever go back.
You know that fear of public speaking I mentioned earlier? That’s where it started. I was about 6 at the time, and 22 years later it still affects me. I hate dancing in public and while I enjoy singing, performing in front of people terrifies me. Getting up in front of a room full of people to give a presentation makes my stomach sick, my body shake, and often results in my skin turning a lovely embarrassing shade of bright red.
When presented with the opportunity to do these things that terrify me, I try to do them anyway. I often don’t enjoy it, and I know I’m not the most talented presenter or convincing speaker. That really doesn’t matter though, and I’m glad to be taking a course where this is recognised.
It reminds me very much of something my dad has always said, which I will end this post with:
“It doesn’t matter if you pass or fail once you try your best. When you do anything, do it for yourself and no one else.”
My next blog post on returning to university discusses team roles and anxiety, you can read it here. If you’d like to discuss this or any of our other blog posts – you can do so over on our forums here.